Sunday, August 26, 2012

They Were Right When They Left Here: Modern Trends in Business Obfuscation

He never wore socks, his collar was always popped, and he smelled so strongly of Polo cologne that you could walk into a conference room at noon and know that he’d been there in a meeting at nine a.m. In short, J. was the perfect end-of-last-century preppie. He was also a complete idiot and a moral infant, prone to massive mistakes and profligate finger-pointing. Nothing, ever, was J’s fault.

Which leads to his greatest attempt at Teflon-ing ever, one that became the stuff of legend in the company where we both worked. After a long series of bumbled reports, he had promised the client that the next set would, finally, be correct. He sent  hard copies via Fed Ex to the customer’s office in Detroit. (Because, back then, they only thing anyone had were hard copies. They hadn’t invented softness yet, that’s how tough we were.) The next morning, he received an irate call, informing him that the reports were, for the millionth time, wrong. 

“Well,” said J. stoutly, “They were right when they left here.”

And with that brilliantly stupid remark, he earned First Place in my Business Obfuscation Hall of Fame. I doubt that anyone will ever break his record, though, because our new age has provided too many ways to uncover the truth. The Puritans only had the dunking stool to help them find out the truth about witches, but just ask Bill Clinton or Anthony Weiner about the perils of attempting old-fashioned lying in a high-tech age. Back in the day, you could claim that the check had been put in the mail, or that your secretary had never given you the message. Saldy, those options are gone, and no one even knows what a secretary was.

Recently, though, I’ve discovered a new attempt by the inept to pass the buck for their own incompetence – the Spam folder. Several times in the past couple months, I’ve experienced someone excusing their inaction on an important matter by insisting, “I never saw your message; it must have gone to my Spam folder.” 

It’s a pretty nifty little conceit, replacing the incompetent secretary with a miscreant Outlook folder, but it really lacks the panache that accompanied the idea of a missing pink “While You Were Out” slip. Still, it’s the best that our times have to offer for getting oneself off the hook, which is almost enough to make me look back fondly at the time when everyone had an office, and a secretary, many of whom were smoking at their desks.  Aaah, take in a deep breath, kiddies, and let your lungs fill up with a time when the men were men and the excuses were plentiful.

I have to admit that I grew soupily nostalgic in remembering J. and his back-in-the-day exploits. Thanks to LinkedIn, I was able to do a bit of sleuthing, and I’ve uncovered the following tidbit: According to his bio, he’s a “Business Development Professional Seeking New Job Opportunity.” Oh, J. You had a job when you left here, didn’t you?

1 comment:

  1. Dang my poor memory and love of idiots being called out. Wish I could remember who this was. Not that it matters I suppose, because the point of the post is perfect. Everyone has a spam filter and if the mailbox owner does not check it, then he/she is too dumb to be using email. And that's a significant amount of dumb. An artfully crafted rant. I am a fan.